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Music Review

New West Closes on Promising Note

May 22, 2000|DANIEL CARIAGA | TIMES MUSIC WRITER

Building an orchestra is a long and difficult process, longer and more difficult than some would think. The New West Symphony, now closing its fifth season, remains highly promising under its founding music director, Boris Brott. Heard at the first of two performances of its final program, Friday night in Fred Kavli Theatre at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, that promise is strong--but still clouded.

Personnel quality and rehearsal time remain the stumbling blocks to musical achievement here. The players, some veterans, some very young, are still forming a musical family, let alone a viable ensemble. And preparation time for the group is clearly limited.

This program ended on the optimism of Mahler's exposing Fourth Symphony, which Brott conducted with style and sweep, and which the orchestra weathered almost neatly. But the virtues of this performance came at a price: Before intermission, the ensemble gave a pedestrian, sometimes slovenly reading to an even more exposing and familiar monument, Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony.

This was disheartening; previous visits had shown the orchestra on an upward curve in which a string section of good quality seemed to be improving, and in which the separate parts of the orchestra began to meld.

At least the Mahler performance showed where rehearsal had been used. Details came into place early on; the emotional convolutions of the opening were specific, though finesse had not been achieved. By the third movement, the orchestra had warmed up to a Mahlerian temperature and the work took shape.

The finale, in which soprano Jessica Tivens was the young and promising soloist--she sounded healthy rather than radiant, and emotionally generalized--revealed Brott's overall vision of the work.

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